Myths About Mental Illness

There's a lot of misinformation about mental health floating around. Educating yourself and others about some of these common myths can help to challenge much of the stigma surrounding mental health.

Myth: I can't be affected by mental health problems.

Fact: In reality, about one in five adults in America experience mental health issues, and one in 10 young adults have experienced a period of major depression. One in 25 Americans live with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or serious depression. So, even if you yourself do not experience a mental health problem, chances are a family member, friend, or coworker has or will.

Myth: Mental illnesses aren't real illnesses.

Fact: Mental illnesses are real health problems with real treatments. They create distress, and they don't go away on their own. You wouldn't tell someone with a broken leg to “just get over it,” nor would you judge them for needing a cast or crutch to help them cope. Mental illness is no different.

Myth: Mental health issues are caused by personality weakness or character flaws.

Fact: Your personality or ability to handle your problems have nothing to do with mental illness. Mental illness isn't “just in your head,” and it has nothing to do with being weak or lazy. Many factors contribute to mental illness, including:

  • Biological factors, such as genes, physical illness, injury, or brain chemistry
  • Life experiences, such as trauma or a history of abuse
  • Family history of mental health problems

Myth: People with mental illness can snap out of it if they just try hard enough.

Fact: Many people need help to get better. The right combination of what helps is different for everybody.

Myth: People with mental health problems are violent and unpredictable.

Fact: Mental illness is not a good indicator of violence. People with mental health issues are no more likely to be violent than those without. Only 3%-5% of violent acts can be linked to people living with serious mental illness. In fact, it is important to note that people with mental health issues are more than 10 times more likely to be victims of violence than to be the cause.

Myth: People don't recover from mental illness.

Fact: People can and do recover from mental illness. There are many different kinds of treatment, services, and support that can help, and many people with mental health issues lead productive, engaged lives. Even when people do experience mental health issues that last for a long time, there are ways to manage their symptoms so that their illness does not rule their lives.

Return to our "Mental Health" section for more information and help